Friday, February 19, 2016

Mylene Farmer – L'Autre (Polydor France, 1991)

There was plenty of evidence in the '90s that Sinead O'Connor or Kate Bush might've been way more compelling if they'd grown up in the land of "Je T'aime…Moi Non Plus." For example, Jeanne Mas, a blindfolded Joan Of Arc who recited Baudelaire poetry, Arctic art songs, and eulogies for war babies amid Latin mass moans, guillotine guitars, circling vultures, and choruses of lost children; or Pauline Ester, with a synthetic X-Ray Spex name and a conehead Lene Lovich beehive, jumping from Malian chants to Caribbean rhythms to scatted catcalls and piano woogie. But singer Mylene Farmer — born in Quebec, but a suburban Parisian since elementary school, and one of France's all-time top sellers — has towered above the chanteuse pack since the mid '80s. L'Autre, which sold nearly two million copies in France, thanks in part to violent videos featuring co-ed boxing matches, labor-camp riots, and wolves lurking around vampiric lesbian makeout scenes, is her testament. Ornate ivory runs serve as a bed for clanking mechanical melodies dissolving into air; cloudland trip-hop moods that outdo P.M. Dawn ("Je T'Aime Mélancholie") and the Pet Shop Boys ("Désenachantée"); cathedral-bell synthesizer riffs mimicking the opening of Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer"; moods as heavy and Medievally Catholic as goth metal would be later in the decade ("Agnus Dei"). Centerpiece "Psychiatric" opens with a snip of the Elephant Man doing his Johnny Rotten-in-"Bodies" imitation, saying he's human not an animal, after which the hellfire-haired Farmer whispers that she's losing her mind — like it happens every day.


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